Sony LinkBuds Vs. AirPods 3 – How to Choose the Best Open Earbuds For You

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Apple’s original AirPods were lightweight and pleasant to wear. Because they were open, there were two main advantages to them: ease of use and increased awareness. They didn’t put any wires in your ears and were not blocked from the world. Alternatives were noise-isolating, or earbuds that isolate your hearing from the outside world. They create an occluded sensation, so you can hear what you are doing as you move, but not approaching vehicles.

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Comparing Apple’s AirPods with Sony’s LinkBuds


With the invention of transparency modes that let sound into noise-isolating buds like the AirPods Pro, that occlusion sensation has become less of an issue, but plenty of folks still hate wearing earbuds with silicon tips; they just find them uncomfortable. AirPods Pro, which are now in their third generation of AirPods have been a favorite choice. They also remain the most popular open-style earbuds. Sony wants to change that with their new LinkBuds. They have an open ring design which looks strange from the first look. The LinkBuds are $180. They’re almost the exact same price as AirPods 3 and it wouldn’t surprise me if Sony begins to match AirPods 3 discount prices (which dropped as low as $140). The answer is yes in certain ways and no in others. It’s difficult to say, and it may depend on whether or not you use Android. Let’s take a look at each option and draw a conclusion.

Sony LinkBuds vs. Apple AirPods 3

Sony LinkBuds

Apple AirPods 3

Battery life (in between charges)

5.5 hours

6 hours

Weighing your earbuds



Water resistance



Announcement of the year






David Carnoy/CNET

Apart from their discreet, stemless design the LinkBuds offer a big advantage over AirPods. They are made to fit more snugly in your ears thanks to the Arc Supporters (six sizes). I wouldn’t say these lock in quite as well as the Beats Fit Pro, but they’re arguably more comfortable, particularly if you don’t like having an ear tip jammed in your ear. However, the LinkBuds may not fit every person’s ears and aren’t suitable for everyone. Some users may find the LinkBuds not suitable for their ears. While you might not forget they’re in your ears for long periods of time, the LinkBuds are lightweight and only 4.1 grams per bud, compared to AirPods 3 which weighs 6.25 grams. While the case is slightly larger than the AirPods 3’s, it is very compact and shares a similar footprint. It has a fast charging feature which provides up to 90 minutes battery life with a 10 minute charge, however unlike the AirPods 3 it doesn’t support wireless charging. The case and buds are both made of recycled plastic. A few additional features of the LinkBuds include Speak to Chat, which allows you to have conversation with your music and resumes within 15 seconds. You don’t have to tap on the bud. Instead, tap on your forehead, right in front of your ears, and you can control playback. The LinkBuds 3 have this feature, but it’s much more convenient than the AirPods 3. It allows you to control volume levels and playback. You can also program the taps for volume adjustments. The third-gen AirPods have Apple’s spatial audio virtual surround sound feature, which works with movies and TV content along with music. Like the WF-1000XM4 and WH-1000XM4, the LinkBuds support Sony’s surround sound music format, 360 Reality Audio. A handful of streaming services — Tidal, Amazon Music, Deezer and — have libraries of tracks recorded in the new format. Lastly, the LinkBuds have Google Fast Pair, so connecting them to an Android phone is a cinch. But they unfortunately do not support multipoint Bluetooth pairing. The buds can only be paired with one device at a time, so you can not connect them to both your phone or your computer simultaneously. As for sound quality, the LinkBuds sound good for open earbuds fall short of the third-gen AirPods, which offer better sound than their second-gen predecessors. The LinkBuds sound natural and open, with just enough bass. They don’t have the same bass response as noise-isolating buds, but they sound like many open earbuds. A track such as Spoon’s Knock Knock Knock has a deep bass, but it doesn’t make the same impact if the buds are Sony WF1000XM4 or the AirPods 3. These have a slightly bigger sound. Final, the LinkBuds make it easy to call voicemails. Sony will not say how many microphones each Link Bud has — there is only one on each bud. However, the company claims it has improved noise reduction algorithms. Callers said that my voice was clear and had minimal background noise when I called New York. These Buds are comparable to the AirPods’ voice-calling performance.

See our Sony LinkBuds evaluation.


David Carnoy/CNET

The third-gen AirPods look a lot like AirPods Pro without ear tips, with the same shorter stems and same pinch controls as those of the Pro. Although I found the AirPods 3 to be very comfortable, I had to adjust them to fit my ears. They fit me better than the AirPods 2 but I have heard that people with smaller ears prefer them to the AirPods 2. One CNET editor stated she could not get the AirPods 3 into her ears. The biggest improvement in the AirPods 3 is the improved sound quality. Battery life for 6 hours is much better than the LinkBuds’ 5.5. AirPods 3 are officially waterproof — IPX4 splashproof. They also support Apple’s spatial audio virtual surround (for Apple only). AirPods 3 are a great option for Apple users. Apart from the spatial audio feature, they also have sound quality and can automatically switch between Apple devices via your iCloud account. This is basically multipoint Bluetooth pairing for Apple customers. It allows you accept an incoming iPhone call while simultaneously listening to audio from your Mac or iPad. Check out our 21 AirPods tricks and tips to learn more about AirPods. The LinkBuds are great for use with open-earbuds. However, the AirPods 3 sound louder, more full, and have a slightly higher bass. The extra volume was a big plus as I was walking around New York City streets with lots of ambient noise. Like the LinkBuds Pro, these AirPods 3 have a lot more bass and sound quality. The callers reported that they were able hear me well despite the background noise from New York. They let sound through, which can make it difficult to hear calls in noisy environments. Similar voice-calling capabilities are offered by the LinkBuds. 

Our Apple AirPods 3 review is available.


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Sony LinkBuds Review: Next-Level Open Earbuds


Which is better: Sony LinkBuds Vs. AirPods3

The AirPods 3 and LinkBuds 3 are equally matched. However, each headphones is slightly better in some areas. It all comes down to your priorities. It all comes down to what you value most. The LinkBuds are more suitable for Android users who don’t have access to those extras. They offer far better audio quality and a more punchy bass. These buds sound just a bit more fuller that the LinkBuds. They’re better suited for Apple users who are able to get the AirPods 3 into a snug fit. That’s why they were rated slightly lower than the LinkBuds. The LinkBuds are a great alternative to the AirPods 3 for Android users or those with trouble getting the AirPods 3 in their ears.   If:

  • The AirPods 3 don’t fit well after you’ve tried them. If you intend to use the buds for sports like biking and running, this is even more true.
  • An Android user. You are an Android user. The AirPods’ Apple-only benefits like spatial audio for movie or TV viewing, always-on Siri, and automatic switching among Apple devices will not benefit you. Instead, get the LinkBuds with their additional features like Speak to Chat, Wide Area Tap, and Always-On Siri. 
  • If: 

  • A higher quality sound is desired. The AirPods 3, while both are great for voice calling, have better background noise reduction and sound quality. They also offer more bass punch and dynamic sound. The AirPods 3 sound just a bit more fuller that the LinkBuds. 
  • Apple products are valued by you as an Apple user. If you like Apple’s spatial audio, always-on Siri (“Hey Siri”), audio sharing with other Apple users, Live Listen and iCloud pairing, you should stick with Apple-branded headphones.
  • The AirPods 3 are the best choice if you have an Apple device and can fit them comfortably. I rate them slightly more than the LinkBuds. For Android users or those who aren’t able to get the AirPods III in their ears securely, the LinkBuds can be an alternative.   

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